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Analysis of "Ode to the West Wind" Essays

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Each of the poem's five stanzas contains a sonnet with a closing couplet. It is written in iambic pentameter in terza rima formation. The rhyming pattern follows the form aba bcb cdc ded ee. According to Shelley's note, "this poem was conceived and chiefly written in a wood that skirts the Arno, near Florence, and on a day when that tempestuous wind, whose temperature is at once mild and animating, was collecting the vapours which pour down the autumnal rains. They began, as I foresaw, at sunset with a violent tempest of hail and rain, attended that magnificent thunder and lightning peculiar to the Cisalpine regions." It was written in the autumn of 1819 and published the following year. It is clear from the flamboyant language used in the opening lines of the poem that Shelley is not just writing about the seasons or the weather. The themes of the poem are Shelley's own fear that he is losing his abilities as a poet, his belief in political reform and social justice and his spiritual emptiness. Shelley was still reeling after the Peterloo massacre when he wrote this poem and the forces of nature used as imagery reflect the strength of his feelings.

The poem begins with a vivid description of the wind and the importance of this imagery is emphasised by the alliteration, "WILD West Wind" and indeed the title of the poem. The capitalisation of West Wind again underlines the importance of this aspect of nature and even suggests personification or the divine. In Greek and Latin the words for wind, inspiration, soul, and spirit are all related. Shelley is using the West Wind to symbolise an inspiring spiritual power that moves everywhere and affects everything. He continues by describing the wind as the "breath of Autumn's being...


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...le of this poem suggests that Shelley may indeed be preaching to the unconverted and using poetry as political propaganda.

Throughout the poem there is close observation of wind, water, wood, cloud and sky. The imagery is scientific, mythical and biblical which combine to form a very powerful setting. Shelley is using the natural to portray the social. The wind symbolises the force of renewal in nature and the change needed for political reform and to restructure society. As the destruction of the autumn wind indicates the end of summer, so the changes necessary to bring about a fairer society will be destructive at first too.


Bibliography

Owens, W. R. (ed) and Johnson, H. (ed), Romantic Writings: An Anthology (2000) The Open University

The Open University (2002) A210 Approaching Literature: Approaching Poetry, Milton Keynes, The Open University


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